Monday, December 24, 2012

My Prayer This Christmas

 In response to yesterday's post, friend Susan sent two paragraphs of a prayer by Rabbi Marc Gellman in Melville, New York. I was so moved by the two paragraphs that I searched until I found the entire prayer, posted on December 18, 2012, and am reprinting it below in its entirety, with thanks to Rabbi Gellman

The prayer reminds me of a part of the biblical story often forgotten amid the pageantry and wonder of Christmas Eve services. The Christmas tale is of angels singing, shepherds and magi finding their way to a stable where the baby was born; but it is also a story refugees and of the slaughter of children by a puppet of Rome. That part of the story does not fit with the gaiety of our Christmas celebrations. But this year the terrible events in Newtown and countless other places on earth cannot, and must not, be exorcised from Christmas any more than the wailing of the parents of the murdered Innocents in the first story of Christmas. That's why Rabbi Gellman's words will be my prayer this Christmas. 

- Milo

Carl Sandberg wrote, "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on."

Oh, God, dear God, what is your opinion about the slaughter of 20 babies and their brave teachers? Is it now your opinion that life should not go on? This is one path some have taken out of this darkness.

They say, with Franz Kafka, that "The meaning of life is that it ends." They say, with Thomas Hobbes, that "Each man is the wolf of his neighbor." If you don't want us to travel down that road of nihilistic despair, we pray to you now, help us to believe that the good in us will win! Even when our children and our hope are cut down like trees, help us to believe, with Job, that at the first scent of water we will send out new green leaves again.

At the coming of this winter of sorrow, dear God of all our seasons, help us to believe that spring will come again.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote: 
"What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home. Everything distant, which for all its moans and muffled cries, its ruined lives and millions of victims, that does not threaten to come rolling up to our threshold today, we consider endurable and of tolerable dimensions."

Oh, God, dear God, help us to mourn not just those children and those teachers taken from this life in the state of Connecticut in the country of America, but also, dear God, open our hearts to the suffering and deaths of other children and other teachers whose deaths have not come rolling up to our thresholds today: the children and teachers of Syria and Congo,and North Korea and every place where children and their teachers are caught in the web of war. Each one of them was made in your image. Each one had the songs of their lives cut short even as they were singing them. We pray to you as Lincoln prayed to you that our hearts might become as large as the world.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: 
"I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
Oh, God, dear God, help us to have patience with all the social questions raised by this tragedy and to be cautious of those offering neat and immediate answers. For well we know that there is no cure for evil here on planet earth. Help us to help those among us struggle with severe mental illness and who stare every day into the eyes of demons at their doors to their minds. Help us to love them while also protecting ourselves and our children from those who cannot conquer or control their demons.

May we never force the innocent among them to live like pariahs or prisoners of our collective fears. Help us also to learn how to defend ourselves against evil either domestic or foreign without making us victims of our own weapons of defense. Keep us far from those who are often wrong but never in doubt. Grant wisdom to our leaders that they might find a way to protect both our freedom and our future.

A.A. Milne wrote: "'It is hard to be brave,' said Piglet, 'when you're only a Very Small Animal.'"

Oh, God, dear God, help our children to be brave. Our children are very small animals and so many of them are so frightened now. Help them to be brave by believing in what they cannot always see, so that in time they can see what they believe. Help them to be brave by believing that the souls of these children are with God in heaven even though they cannot see heaven yet. Help them to be brave by believing that they do not need to cling to us always in order to be safe.

The most frequent phrase in your Holy Bible is: "Be not afraid." Help us to take those words into our hearts and hearths, so that our children can laugh and sing again.

May the Christians among us still find a way to celebrate the light and hope of Christmas and may those of us who do not celebrate Christmas find light and hope through them.

- Rabbi Marc Gellman

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Guns and Violence - Memories and the Data

Some of my friends are gun owners, and may even be members of the NRA. I was raised in a gun culture. Guns were in our homes and they were kept loaded. How else was my Aunt Mary able to deal with the threat of diamondbacks she was likely to encounter just outside the back door at the ranch? 

My father worked long hours as a pharmacist in the Texas Panhandle, often eight hour shifts at a drug store in one town and another in a town fourteen miles away. But he took time to teach me how to handle guns and how to hunt quail, ducks, and rabbits. By the time I was twelve years old, he had given me a Winchester single-shot 22 and a Mossberg 410 shotgun. Although I kept the guns for fifty years, I kept them as mementos of the special times I had with my dad. I hadn't hunted in forty years. It seemed like I was following my grandfather, who despite being a rancher all his life came to the place where he no longer wanted to pull the trigger on living creatures, not quail, coyotes, or even the dreaded rattlesnakes. By the age of 20, I no longer wanted to hunt either. Decades later in Alaska, I gave guns the away to a friend who taught gun safety. 

I grew up without knowledge of the Second Amendment or any controversy about guns. I also grew up thinking that registration of firearms, and even required training in their use, was as reasonable as car registration and getting a drivers license. My parents may not have thought that, but I'm not sure they would have complained either. In spite of the respect for guns that I had and the training, at age fourteen I also had an instance where through pure carelessness I almost shot a friend. We both laughed at the time, but it was embedded somewhere deep in my psyche, and when I think about it today, I still am terrified about what almost was.

By the time assault weapons were banned by Congress in 1994, I needed no convincing, and though the ban was filled with loopholes like most of gun control legislation that manages to be passed, I thought it a big step backward when Congress and President Bush managed to repeal the ban in 2004. 

I don't know if the flawed ban legislation would have prevented the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, just as I don't know how better funded mental health programs that have been gutted throughout the nation would have helped prevent it. I don't think anyone is in a position to say with certainty how the more nebulous cultural glorification of violence in this country contributed to the massacre. 

But for those who have eyes to see, the correlation between guns and violence in our culture seem indisputable, no matter the obfuscation offered up by the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre

Whether you, the reader, will actually look at the detailed table below is something I don't know. If you are someone who looks at tables and your eyes glaze over, you can skip to the end and see what I think it says, but I hope you will take a minute or two and just look at the table.  

Charles M. Blow's article, "On Guns, America Stands Out," (NYT, Dec. 19, 2012), where I found the table, summarizes:

“This table shows how shamefully we measure up against other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the O.E.C.D. countries that the World Bank groups as “high income,” America has the highest gun homicide rate, the highest number of guns per capita and the highest rate of deaths due to assault. In fact, America has more homicides by gun than all of the other high-income O.E.C.D. countries combined.”

 I believe it is way way past time for us to face up to the consequences of our gun culture and  begin adopting measures that most other industrialized countries of the world have had for a long time. I believe that a non-NRA-coerced or funded mindset will recognize that we can no longer afford the "frontier mentality" (which actually didn't serve us well during legitimate frontier days) that allows gun ownership with flimsy restrictions. There was a time when neither car registration nor driver's licenses were required. 

As for the Second Amendment, I think that the majority of those who passed it, believed they were granting the right to bear firearms only in a militia. But if rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010 are right that the intent of the amendment was for any citizen to have a right to bear arms, then I think the majority of framers were wrong, at least for our time. They were wrong about the rights of women and slaves, both of which had to be dealt with much later. The disregard of rights for this country's native peoples has never been addressed in the Constitution. Is it possible those framers were also wrong about the right to bear arms?

What do you think?

- Milo

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"What History Looks Like" - Women and the Electorate

[Note: As I watched the returns last Tuesday night, several strong impressions washed over me. The first was an enormous sense of relief that big money was not able to buy this election. Said David Espo of AP, “Obama captured Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Colorado, seven of the nine [probably eight of nine if Florida goes Obama  and it did– my insertion] states where the rivals and their allies poured nearly $1 billion…” Romney won North Carolina. There is more to be said about this, later.

The second realization was how well women running for office did, especially those who had been targeted by Republican Super Pacs, and in whom my hope had wavered in the waning days of the campaign. I have Republican women friends who were dismayed by the outcome of the election, but I suspect they and their husbands are just now beginning to grasp the consequences of being associated with a party that so many women rejected.

When I received the following note from Kirsten Gillibrand, junior Senator from the State of New York, she invited me to share it with friends. She puts names and numbers with the role women and the electorate played in this election. "This is," as she concludes, "what history looks like."]

by Kirsten Gillibrand  |  November 09, 2012
This week saw a historic election for women, both on the ballot and at the ballot box. Women knew what was at stake and showed up at the polls in 2008-level numbers, making up 53% of the electorate. Not only were women decisive in re-electing President Obama to a second term, but they helped usher in a record number of women into the halls of Congress.
In 2012, a record number of women were off the sidelines and running for Congress. 184 women were on the ballot on Tuesday and it's looking likely that we'll see women's representation in Congress rise from under 17% to almost 19% with a record 81 women elected to the House (and counting) and 20 elected to the U.S. Senate.
Included in that group are Mazie Hirono in Hawaii, who will be the first Asian-American woman -- and the first Buddhist -- Senator. We'll also have Tammy Baldwin, the U.S. Senate's first openly gay member. And it's worth noting that Hirono in Hawaii, Baldwin in Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota are all the first women to serve in the U.S. Senate from their respective states.
This wave of women was disproportionately Democratic, powered by an electorate galvanized behind President Obama (women supported him 55%-44%) and Democratic Senate candidates in support of the expansion of economic opportunity for women as well as access to health care and trust in women to make their own health decisions. Single women in particular turned out for Democrats, making up 23% of the electorate (up from 20% in 2008,) 67% of whom voted for President Obama.
When I started Off The Sidelines to encourage women to make their voices heard in their communities and participate in politics, whether by voting or running for office themselves, one of the goals was to increase the number of women in elected office. More women means more diverse views that represent a wider swath of the electorate. Women bring different experiences and perspectives to bear on decision making, so I truly believe that as more women are elected, the better the outcomes will be for everyone.
To that end, I was proud to be able to help raise more than $1 million for women candidates all over the country this cycle, including many who won including our 4 new female Democratic Senators elect, House candidates and Iraq War veterans Tulsi Gabbard in Hawaii and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, as well as New York's first female Asian-American member of the House, Grace Meng.
But I'm also so impressed and proud of the women who didn't win this time. Running for office isn't easy but I believe it's essential that more women -- win or lose -- get off the sidelines and get in that ring. I was heartened that in three states, including in my own race, women were the nominees for Senate of both parties. The more women that run for office today, will inspire more of our young women and girls to do so in the future so we can one day get to 51% representation.
And maybe we'll even see more states like New Hampshire, which, on Tuesday, became the first state to elect an all women Congressional delegation along with Governor-elect Maggie Hassan!
This is what history looks like.
[Or, as Bob Dylan once wrote, "The times they are a-changin'"!
 Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

-  Milo

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Part Seven - Mitt Romney and Jobs

This is the seventh in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else, I welcome your responses. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

Why I Plan to Vote Democratic

"I know how to create jobs! And I will do it better than President Obama!" has been the main mantra of candidate Romney in his run for the presidency.  

For those who have have eyes to see, President Obama's record is clear, and defensible. Nobel prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, puts it simply:
— recovery from a severe financial crisis is always difficult, and especially so when the opposition party does its best to block every policy initiative you propose. And things have definitely improved over the past year. Still, unemployment remains high after all these years, and a candidate with a real plan to make things better could make a strong case for his election.
Krugman puts it more politely than I would. If Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is to be believed, the Republican priority was not to create jobs but to deny President Obama a second term: "Say 'No!' to everything he puts on the table." No matter what the President proposed on jobs, debt, or anything else, it was to be rejected out of hand so the President could achieve nothing. And that is pretty much what the Republicans did. It strongly suggests to me that if the Republicans could have done anything to keep the unemployment figure from dropping below 8% they would have. It reminds me that hundreds of thousands who might have been put to work weren't because to do so would not contributed to the Republicans' number one priority. 

Mr. Romney says he knows how to create jobs and has a plan to do so. I believe there is good reason to doubt his word on both counts.

First, does Romney really know how to create jobs? 

He says he is a better "job creator" than President Obama largely on his success and experience in the private sector. Most of that experience has been at the private equity firm, Bain Capital, that he founded. 

In an article, "A Financier in Chief," Peter Joseph, for twenty-five years a partner in two private equity firms, says that Romney has not been eager for the electorate to see the connection between his financial activity and his ability to create jobs. The world of private equity business is carefully and clearly explained in great detail by Joseph. [Given the lack of general knowledge about such things and its importance for the way things work today, I wondered if perhaps this article shouldn't be required reading by those not studying business in high school and college.] The bottom line (no pun intended) says Joseph:
In pursuit of single-mindedly maximizing the return on an investment, a financier must focus on how to increase a company's cash flow in order to create value, and herein lies Romney's greatest political difficulty. A businessman seeking to optimize profitability will look to lower labor costs by reducing head-count, whether through technology, out-sourcing, or rationalization. This is right out of the basic playbook. It is not the mission of the financier to create jobs. In fact, his mission is often to do just the opposite. [Bold mine]
Mr. Romney has had much experience in job-reduction and optimizing profitability for investors, but little in job creation.

There is something else about Financier Romney that he hasn't acknowledged on the campaign trail: how much of his wealth has been made on managing government pension funds. Joseph puts it well:
Although Romney is unlikely to admit it on the campaign trail, his much-vaunted private sector success was based in significant part on the savings of public sector workers. Romney constantly derides big government, but government is made up of individuals, whose pension funds helped make him and Bain unimaginably rich... It seems odd to hear Romney criticize big government without any acknowledgment that he has made much of his fortune managing the retirement funds of many public employees.
If you listened to his speech at the convention, you may recall him saying how he started as a small businessman with thirty-seven employees. What he didn't and doesn't say was how he started that "small business" with thirty-seven million dollars 
raised from sources that included wealthy Europeans investing through Panamanian shell companies and Central American oligarchs living in Miami while death squads associated with their families ravaged their home nations. Hey, doesn’t every plucky little start-up have access to that kind of financing?
So, does Romney know how to create jobs? If he does, it is not obvious in his resume. In fact, his resume suggests just the opposite.

Second, even if he has little experience in creating jobs, does Romney have a plan that will create jobs?

Paul Krugman calls Romney's plan "a snow job." He
doesn’t have a plan; he’s just faking it. In saying that, I don’t mean that I disagree with his economic philosophy; I do, but that’s a separate point. I mean, instead, that Mr. Romney’s campaign is telling lies: claiming that its numbers add up when they don’t, claiming that independent studies support its position when those studies do no such thing.
As has been frequently noted, the plan has five points and no specifics. Krugman says,
Loosely speaking, however, it calls for a return to Bushonomics: tax cuts for the wealthy plus weaker environmental protection. And Mr. Romney says that the plan would create 12 million jobs over the next four years.
Where does that number come from? When pressed, the campaign cited three studies that it claimed supported its assertions. In fact, however, those studies did no such thing.
Just for the record, one study concluded that America might gain two million jobs if China stopped infringing on U.S. patents and other intellectual property; this would be nice, but Mr. Romney hasn’t proposed anything that would bring about that outcome. Another study suggested that growth in the energy sector might add three million jobs in the next few years — but these were predicted gains under current policy, that is, they would happen no matter who wins the election, not as a consequence of the Romney plan.
Krugman speaks in less polite terms to say that citing those studies is "lying." And, moreover, that Romney and his advisers know it. 

What then in their heart of hearts do Romney and his economic advisers really believe? 
As best as I can tell, they’re placing their faith in the confidence fairy, in the belief that their candidate’s victory would inspire an employment boom without the need for any real change in policy. In fact, in his infamous Boca Raton “47 percent” remarks, Mr. Romney himself asserted that he would give a big boost to the economy simply by being elected, “without actually doing anything.” And what about the overwhelming evidence that our weak economy isn’t about confidence, it’s about the hangover from a terrible financial crisis? Never mind.
Because I don't believe Romney's background equips him to create jobs as President, because I believe his jobs plan is a sham, and because I don't believe in the "confidence fairy," I plan to vote Democratic in the election.
What about you? Do Joseph, and Krugman have it wrong? If what they say is true (and Romney is not), does it make any difference in the way you will vote?
-  Milo

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Part Six - 1936 and 2012

This is the sixth in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

Something a friend sent me yesterday prompted me to look back at the presidential election campaign of 1936. Some of you already know what that “something” was. Even though I hadn't yet been born, I grew up in that year’s shadow and yesterday felt a seventy-six year old wind rustling fall leaves in the 2012 elections already under way.

In 1936 the Great Depression was in its eighth year. President Franklin Roosevelt had been in office for four years and running for his second term. He was still working to push his New Deal economic policies through congress and the courts. Despite the passage of Social Security and unemployment benefits, unemployment stood at 16.9%, well down from the high of 24% at the depth of the Depression but still four times higher what it had been when Herbert Hoover took office in 1928.

The desperate economic conditions FDR inherited in 1932 were exacerbated by the Dust Bowl, the catastrophic dust storms on the southern plains in the 1930s, especially between 1934 and 1936, caused by drought and decades of farming that had displaced the native grasses that kept the soil in place. Although the meteorological epicenter was a relatively small area in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado, the effects rippled through an already crippled nation. Tons of dust from the Bowl fell as far as New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of thousands of people had to abandon their homes and farms causing a major social dislocation. The title of Timothy Egan’s chronicle, The Worst Hard Time, was not an overstatement.

Alf Landon was the Republican candidate running against Roosevelt. Kansas Governor Landon was what would become a vanishing breed of “liberal Republicans.” (Does anyone know what former Governor Romney really stands for?) Most of the attacks on Roosevelt and Social Security were from the Republican machine. Landon admired much of the New Deal but complained that it was hostile to business, involved too much waste and was inefficient. 

Against the 1936 background, what I received yesterday makes even more sense: it was a link to a warning to the nation President Roosevelt issued in his 1936 campaign. I resisted the impulse to print the one and a half minute text because I believe it better to hear FDR’s voice. Over these seventy-six years, I had to remind myself that he wasn't speaking to us in 2012.

Watch and listen to it; see if you don’t think it has a most contemporary ring! It is one of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic in this election. What about you?

- Milo

Friday, October 12, 2012

Debates Under Further Review

[A guest column in two parts written by a good friend in Colorado. Enjoy; and perhaps learn from a court jester.]

Reflections on Debate One: 

I have thought and thought about your blog and feel the need for further consideration. We need to call the experience of the two candidates together for what it is. It is NOT a debate. It is, as every news event has come to be . . . a sporting event. It is . . . political sport. There used to be a time when news broadcasts had “on the scene” reporting. Such reporting now has all the air, the urgency, the heart pounding rapid speech of the “down on the field “color commentary.

Mindful that we should see such debates as extension of sports, it is imperative that the moderator be dressed appropriately with stripped shirt and ball cap. At the end of each speech, replacing advertising, there should be mandatory replays for fact checks with an important looking man with a whistle to announce  . . . “under further review.” Perhaps a fifteen second penalty for each false assertion! This poses an issue as to the maximum seconds that could be deducted, mindful that if it were accumulative, Nitt Romney would be ineligible to speak until 2020.

That wouldn’t be fair.

Instead of the huge scoreboard, a tentative score would be the more polite evaluation of judges holding up cards like at swimming events. Say, 5 .6 out 6.0.  Allowance would be given for flair, looking authentic, pointing and bright teeth.  A really good point driven home with force, flair and the glare would be given extra, like basketballs three point shot.

I also think that candidates should be encouraged to wear advertising decals on their suits like formula racing cars. Just think of the glitter if Romney wore a flashing FOX news patch or a giant “ONE PERCENT” on his back or wore a “Cal Worthington Used Car Hat.” 

I am on to something Milo. The true American Way of the sport that leads to the ultimate trophy . . .an Oscar  with the  likeness of  a Supreme Court Justice.

Reflections on Debate Two:

Joe gleamed last night. It was a mighty gleam. George Bush would have said the Joe had “gleam-ness.” Joe gleamed at the camera like the lion of the Wizard of Oz, “. . . Who do you trust?  Who do you trust?” Then he turned to Paul and gleamed him down, turning this man from Wisconsin on his own mascot, badgering him with that incessant smile,  upper cutting him with condescending smirks and above all, rope a doping his Republican opponent with politicos interruptus.  Paul Ryan was interrupted by the gleaming Joe so many times that Republicans after the game said the Joe Biden was “rude.”  RUDE? Hello! DUH! Could you imagine Joe Frazier after fighting Mohammad Ali saying “that man was rude?”  

THIS IS A GAZILLION DOLLAR SPORT! Do you think the average American plants themselves before the altar of Sunday afternoon football to watch “Polite.”  If all you show up with at a political debate is argument and issues, you might as well be an empty chair.

According to the CBS instant poll of undecided voters, Joe out gleamed Paul 50% to 31%.  Let freedom ring! This was before the truth squad referees called penalties for lies, deceptions and half-truths. 

In the meantime, licking his wounds of humiliation in his White House man cave, trying to get a little gleam of his own with a little self-deprecating humor, Obama  . . .awaits.  In the distance you can hear the faint sound of trumpets playing the score of Rocky-27.  Don’t push Barrack in the corner with the worst presidential playoff game in American history!

 O woe!

All eyes are on Tuesday night’s game. There in one corner, or field, or court, will be a poll bolstered, Fit Nitt. And in the other is one determined Nitt Picker who won’t be duped this time of what this is all about. Obama is loaded for bear . . . or weasel. This time Obama is going to quip him. Quip him good. He was game-changed once, but this time he will not be out smiled by Dudley Far Right. Mr. Cool is coming out fighting with his own bolstering of a reduction of below 8% un-employment.

However, after further review, it is determined that half of the reduction of unemployment is due to the drastic increase in political telemarketers. We all need to face the fact that this country, at this moment, is sustained by campaign revenues so high that even the 1% are envious. That, after all is the cost of show business, the game show of politics. It may well be that as the price of running for office increases we may stimulate the economy enough to rise out of our deficient by just the cost of the next election.
The next election needs to start right now.

Jim Campbell, court jester

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Part Five - The Denver Debate

[Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 10-3-2012]

Part Five of "Why I Plan to Vote Democratic"

This is the fifth in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

My American History teacher in high school drafted me onto the debate team, of which she was the coach. My first debate was with a team from Wichita Falls High School, a BIG school compared to Iowa Park High. 

The topic was whether or not the Electoral College process for electing presidents should be abolished. My partner and I made our speeches and our coach said we didn't do badly in the rebuttals. By a flip of a coin at the beginning, the team from Wichita Falls had the last word. 

The last word came from a smooth talking senior. I could hardly believe my ears. One after another, he offered falsehood after falsehood to bolster their case. I thought he must have violated the Interscholastic League rules, but no, that's just the way debates are. The other team won the debate. In my view, we were pretty much even going into the closing statements and lost it based on patently untrue statements. Welcome to the real world, Milo!

The debate between President Obama and former Governor Romney, and the pundits responses afterward, brought back the memory of my first formal debate. Style points, aggressiveness, and appearances count for a lot in formal debates, whether in high school or in presidential debates. Truth seems to count for much less. The debate last night was not an academic exercise, but a forum in which potential voters were to be informed and so better able to make a decision about how to vote.

What I wanted to know was what was true and false in what they said. I didn't give a damn about whether Romney acted like a corporate executive and Obama as a college professor. So, I've done some fact-checking and I want to summarize what I found. (Since you already know that I plan to vote Democratic, you might do well to check my summary statements against the 29-page document to see if they are indeed accurate. I hope you will let me know if I have misstated or omitted any pertinent facts.)

Fact Check: Romney's 12 Million Jobs: Mr. Romney promised to create 12 million jobs over the next four years if he is elected president. Catherine Rampell found,
That is actually about as many jobs as the economy is already expected to create, according to some forecasters.
Fact Check: Medicare Cost Control Board: Among his objections to the new health care law, Mr. Romney said, "It puts in place an unelected board that is going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have. I don't like that idea.
Under the 2010 law, the Affordable Care Act, the board cannot make recommendations to "ration health care," raise revenues or increase premiums, deductibles or co-payments for Medicare beneficiaries. 
Fact Check: Did Half of Green Companies Fail? Mr. Romney said that half the companies invested in under the president's green energy stimulus have gone out of business. John M. Broder found 
That is a gross overstatement. Of nearly three dozen recipients of loans under the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program, only three are currently in bankruptcy, although several others are facing financial difficulties.
Fact Check: Education Cuts: Mr. Obama said that tax cuts would lead to lower government support for public education, and pointed out that the House budget authored by Mr. Romney's running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, would cut "the education budget up to 20 percent." Trip Gabriel found  
Mr. Romney rejected the charge. “I’m not going to cut education funding,” he said. “I don’t have a plan to cut education funding.”
But in the past Mr. Romney has said he would do just that. In a speech to donors in Florida in the spring overheard by reporters, Mr. Romney said he would either merge the federal Education Department with another agency “or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller.”
Fact Check: Medicare's $716 Billion Cut: Mr. Romney said that the $716 billion in Medicare reductions would come from current beneficiaries. Jackie Calmes reminded us that
While fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked this claim, it remains a standard attack line for Mr. Romney.
Fact Check: $5 Trillion Tax Cut: Mr. Romney rejected the President's charge that he advocates a $5 trillion tax cut. Annie Lowery sorts through the complexities of this issue and finds
It is true that Mr. Romney has proposed “revenue neutral” tax reform, meaning that he would not expand the deficit. However, he has proposed cutting all marginal tax rates by 20 percent — which would in and of itself cut tax revenue by $5 trillion.
To make up that revenue, Mr. Romney has said he wants to clear out the underbrush of deductions and loopholes in the tax code. But he has not yet specified how he would do so, opening himself to persistent Democratic attacks.
Fact Check: Doubling the Deficit: Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama doubled the deficit. Jackie Calmes found

That is not true. When Mr. Obama took office in January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office had already projected that the deficit for fiscal year 2009, which ended Sept. 30 of that year, would be $1.2 trillion. (It ended up as $1.4 trillion.) For fiscal year 2012, which ended last week, the deficit is expected to be $1.1 trillion — just under the level in the year he was inaugurated. Measured as a share of the economy, as economists prefer, the deficit has declined more significantly — from 10.1 percent of the economy’s total output in 2009 to 7.3 percent for 2012.

Fact Check: Cutting Deficits a Total of $4 Trillion: Mr. Obama said his budget plan would reduce deficits by $4 trillion over ten years. Jackie Calmes reported that the President's claim is true, but depends on what gets counted as deficit reduction:
Some nonpartisan groups dispute this claim. Yet while Mr. Obama still uses the $4 trillion figure on the campaign trail, his current budget updates it to $5.3 trillion through 2022, reflecting compounding savings in later years.
The difference is mainly in what Mr. Obama counts as deficit reduction. He counts: $1.7 trillion in savings from budget compromises with Congressional Republicans in 2011; more than $1.4 trillion from the expiration of Bush-era tax rates on high incomes and $480 billion from other revenue-raising tax provisions; $597 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies and other so-called entitlement spending programs; $848 billion in savings from the winding down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and $800 billion from reduced interest payments on a smaller federal debt. (Some of this money goes to additional job-creation measures.)..But, all sides agree, it is not enough to right the nation's fiscal imbalance.. 
There are other facts from the debate that can be checked, but I believe that the President pretty much stuck to the facts while Mr. Romney consistently made untrue assertions and refused to supply details on critical matters, except of course for his determination to cut funding for PBS and make Big Bird on Sesame Street depend on commercials to survive. 

Apart from ephemeral style points, I think voters were more interested in who told the truth. At least I hope so. That President Obama was more of a truth-teller that Mr. Romney in last night's debate is one of the reasons why I plan to vote Democratic. 

I invite you to review the facts and point out where if I have misstated them, but don't send anything that doesn't include your sources.

- Milo 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Part Four - Enactment of the Affordable Care Act

Part Four of Why I Plan to Vote Democratic

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law; and on June 28, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
 Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. PPACA is aimed primarily at decreasing the number of uninsured Americans and reducing the overall costs of health care. It provides a number of mechanisms—including mandates, subsidies, and tax credits—to employers and individuals in order to increase the coverage rate. Additional reforms are aimed at improving healthcare outcomes and streamlining the delivery of health care. PPACA requires insurance companies to cover all applicants and offer the same rates regardless of pre-existing conditions or gender The Congressional Budget Office projected that PPACA will lower both future deficits and Medicare spending.
In congressional debate on the bill, Republicans quickly dubbed it “Obamacare.” It was intended as an epithet that would be the millstone around the President’s neck and would sink his presidency in the 2012 election. That name gives far too much credit to President Obama. Despite the fact that all but one Republican in the Senate voted against the bill and all 178 Republican members of the House voted against it, and that immediately after it was passed Republicans introduced legislation to repeal the bill, the Act has Republican provisions throughout, as well as provisions by conservative Democrats and Independents.

From the moment it came out of committee, I was disappointed in the bill. I wanted a single payer provision, but that was too “extreme” for most congressional members. What was passed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court is far more complicated than it had to be and will require legislative work as we go along; but for me there was no question about this Act being a step forward in our history. I commend the President and the members of the House and Senate that persevered to make possible truly historic legislation.

Many Republicans may come to rue the “Obamacare” epithet because it gives so much credit to the President, and not at all the millstone they imagined it to be.

Nobel Prize winner in economics, Paul Krugman, said Sunday that this election is not the referendum on President Obama that Republicans thought it would be. He said,
Voters are, in effect, being asked to deliver a verdict on the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, on Social Security, Medicare and, yes, Obamacare, which represents an extension of that legacy. Will they vote for politicians who want to replace Medicare with Vouchercare, who denounce Social Security as “collectivist” (as Paul Ryan once did), who dismiss those who turn to social insurance programs as people unwilling to take responsibility for their lives?
I think Krugman has put his finger on the fundamental issue of this year’s national and state elections.

The enactment of “Obamacare” is change I believe in, and is one of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic. Where do you stand on this issue?

- Milo

Friday, September 28, 2012

Part Three - Enactment of Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

[Lilly M. Ledbetter]

Part Three: Why I Plan to Vote Democratic

This is the third in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation signed into law President Barack Obama on January 30, 2009. If you don’t recall the circumstances that brought this legislation into being, take a look at this brief summary:
Lilly M. Ledbetter discovered when she was nearing retirement that her male colleagues were earning much more than she was. A jury found her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, Ala., guilty of pay discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her peers. The narrow majority rejected the argument that each subsequent discriminatory paycheck was a new violation of the law.
Courts around the country cited the decision hundreds of times as a reason for rejecting lawsuits claiming discrimination based on race, sex, age and disability, without regard to the underlying merits of the individual cases.
On Jan. 29, 2009, President Barack Obama affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his first official bill as president. The legislation expanded workers’ rights to sue in this kind of case, and relaxed the statute of limitations, restarting the six-month clock every time the worker receives a paycheck.
In view of all the “large” issues at stake in this election, is this expansion of workers’ right to sue worthy of inclusion. Without getting into women’s health issues (that I will get to in a later piece in this series), I think this is a critical issue that lays bare differences between Republicans and Democrats.

When he signed the bill, President Obama made clear its significance:
“It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” the president said.
There is no way this is a “small” or inconsequential issue, but Republicans treated it so. Before Obama was elected, Congress tried to pass a similar law that would have overturned the Supreme Court ruling while President George W. Bush was still in office. He opposed it as did Republicans in Congress, arguing that such a bill would encourage lawsuits. In 2009, President Obama and Congressional Democrats with a handful of Republicans got the bill passed.

That’s not all. In June of 2012, a bill that would have built on the 2009 Ledbetter legislation failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate, as Republicans united against the measure. The new bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, barred companies from retaliating against workers who inquire about pay disparities and open pathways for female employees to sue for punitive damages in cases of paycheck discrimination.  The same bill failed a procedure vote in the Senate when no Republican supported it.

I have to ask this question again. Did Republicans oppose these legislative attempts because President Obama supported them or because they were opposed to women having the means to oppose wage discrimination? Since Republicans opposed the bill in 2007 before Obama was elected, I assume it was because they didn’t believe in the legislation. Do they seriously wonder why women’s support for Obama is in the double digits?

 If I hadn't supported the two bills (the one that passed in 2009 and the one that hasn’t passed yet) I couldn't look my wife and daughters in the eye. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is change I can believe in, and it is one of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic. What do you think?

- Milo

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Part Two: Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell

Why I Plan to Vote Democratic: Part Two

This is the second in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in that particular blog.

I am grateful to Susan who told her own story in a Comment, and to all those who sent their stories to me by email. One of those stories, in which a friend told about his families roots in creating the Underground Railroad but how subsequent generations forgot that with some even joining the KKK. I thought the most important thing he said was this:

“For me, the question is not what did you inherit but what in that inheritance did you learn not to take for granted and what must be handed on with intentionality.” 

One of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic is the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell": 
"Don't ask, don't tell" was the official United States policy on homosexuals serving in the military from December 21, 1993 to September 20, 2011. The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. The restrictions were mandated by United States federal law.
While the policy, passed under President Clinton, was intended to protect gays and lesbians in the Armed Services, it avoided the fundamental issue of why gays and lesbians needed to hide their sexual orientation. The law itself was a form of discrimination. Gays and bisexuals were allowed to serve openly in the armies of all our NATO allies, except for the U.S. and Turkey. 

During his campaign for the presidency, Obama pledged to end the law. I would like for him to have issued an executive order on the day he became President but it had become federal law. The legislation had to be changed. 

The resistance in Congress was overwhelmingly Republican. Whether it was because they bought into homophobic fears or whether they opposed it because President Obama supported its repeal, I don't know. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell said that of the Republican agenda, 
"The single most imortant thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
 On every piece of legislation put before Congress, I suppose the reason for Republican opposition and obstruction must be qualified by McConnell's statement. What important legislation has been opposed and thwarted simply because Republicans want to defeat Obama? 

In my view, whatever the reasons for Republican obstruction on the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Thanks to Obama who carefully shepherded this effort through the Pentagon and Congress, the Democratic members of both chambers, a handful of Republicans, and no thanks to the Republican Party, on September 20, 2011 the shameful policy was ended. 

Change didn't come as fast as I wanted, but I think the President, who I sometimes gratefully consider our "Community Organizer in Chief," got the policy repealed in the proper way. 

For me, the issue was a no brainer, but I know that for many it was not. I like to think that those who opposed this issue (as well as other gay rights issues) simply do not have a friend or family member who daily feel the sting of such discrimination. 

Some may say that the accomplishment by Obama is a not major issue. I rank it right up there with President Truman's 1948 Executive Order 9981 to end racial discrimination in the armed forces. 

Because the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is change that I can believe in, it is one of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic. What about you?

- Milo